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How Do I Start a Career in the Trades?

Joining the Skilled Trades in Ohio

At Gutridge, we are only as good as our people, which is why we look for opportunities to educate interested people on how they can create a rewarding career for themselves as a skilled tradesperson.

It’s hard to ignore the growing list of reasons to pursue a career in the skilled trades. From the pay to the practical skills to the job security, the benefits of working in the trades are well known.

But the primary benefit of a career in the trades may be how easy it is to get started. Training for the skilled trades can be less expensive and take less time than a 4-year university education, and it puts you to work sooner, as most paths include hands-on apprenticeships.

Based on your location and desired trade, you need to pay attention to the amount of training and education required, as well as the type of license you need to work. To help get you started, we’ve put together this quick guide.

Pick a Trade

To kick off your career in the trades, start by earning your high school diploma or GED. This will get you the most basic skills you’ll be applying in your career.

If you don’t already know what trade you want to go into, picking a trade is something you’ll want to spend some time on. Know your strengths, skills, and interests, and take time to research information specific to the trade that interests you the most: research the companies in your area who hire those trades; familiarize yourself with specific training, licenses, or certificates you need; get an idea of how much the trade pays both when you’re first starting out and when you’ve mastered it; and talk to a few people who work in that trade.

Find the Right Education & Training

Once you’ve decided what path you want to start down, there are many ways to start your career. One of the best options is to complete a trade school program or apprenticeship – or both. This combination of classroom learning and on-the-job training will let you work under a licensed contractor like Gutridge.

Technical schools, trade organizations, community colleges, and other institutions offer degrees and certification courses that can serve as your first step into your trade. These can last from a couple months to a few years, depending on your trade and how far you want to go. Also, not all trades require a formal education, so be familiar with what your trade needs before committing to an education program.

Finding an apprenticeship lets you work while learning. This on-the-job training develops your skills under the supervision of experienced tradespeople while you’re being paid for your work, and usually lasts about 4 years.

Apprenticeships are available through professional associations, training institutions, public and private companies, and more.

Check if You Need to Get Licensed

Different trades may have different requirements for licensure, and some may not require any license at all. Other times, the area you work in may dictate your license, as states and cities may have different requirements.

In Ohio, there is no statewide licensing requirement for trades like HVAC technicians, electricians, and plumbers. And only two cities, Middletown and Hamilton, have requirements for journeyman licenses.

However, the city of Columbus requires journeyman plumbers to be licensed, which requires proof of experience and a passing score of 70% on the National Standard Journeyman Plumber exam.

Gain Experience & Reach Journeyman Status

Reaching the level of journeyman is a significant milestone in a tradesperson’s career. By successfully completing your apprenticeship, you’ll show that you have the skills and knowledge necessary to practice your trade without the constant supervision of an apprentice and possibly under your own license.

At this point, your experience and understanding of your trade can open doors to further training, letting you specialize and gain advanced certifications or national licenses that can expand your abilities and boost your pay.

As a journeyman, continue working and learning for several more years to become a Master in your trade.

At Gutridge, we are only as good as our people, and we look forward to new, passionate people joining our team.


HVAC education

The University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima – accredited by both HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

Ohio Schools accredited by PAHRA:

  • Cuyahoga Valley Career Center in Brecksville (public secondary)
  • Great Oaks Institute of Technology in Cincinnati (public post-secondary)
  • Miami Valley Career Center in Clayton (public secondary, public post-secondary)
  • North High School in Akron (public secondary)
  • RETS College in Centerville (private post-secondary)
  • RG Drage Career Center in Massillon (public secondary)
  • Pike County Career Tech Center in Piketon (public secondary)

HVACClasses.org breaks down the credit hour requirements and tuition costs for all of the different programs at each of the above schools.

More lists of HVAC schools in Ohio:

Plumbing education

Most community colleges throughout the state have plumbing programs.

Columbus Community College offers both a Plumbing Apprenticeship Readiness Certificate and a Plumbing Module Certificate

More lists of Plumbing schools in Ohio:

Electrician education

How to Become an Electrician in Ohio

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